By Isobel Carver
COVID-19 has been a pivotal moment in my creative practice, pushing it in an unexpected direction. It has both challenged and inspired me in evolving my work. I began my ceramic practice with a functional view – I see everything in cups, bowls and glazes and found conceptual thinking very daunting. Yet throughout this period of time my studio set up has altered drastically in not having access to the machinery that ultimately defines my work, a potter’s wheel. At first this was incredibly frustrating and I felt stuck, as the past 2 years I have honed in on the skills that coincide with a wheel. I can’t say I felt as though I was ready to embrace the challenge and see where it took me; rather I dragged my feet and found myself in an unexpected position.
Previously, I was drawn to making work that sought an element of perfection in its appearance. In being thrown into a situation where I had to hand-build, I felt uninspired as I was under the presumption that the work I would make could not be further away from perfect. This headspace pushed me to look for inspiration in other forms and I began brainstorming and experimenting with different techniques until a manner of making resonated with me. This development has surprisingly led me to a more sculptural way of making and a desire to further understand clays’ materiality. The work I produced for this past semester is some of my most intricate and refined work that I am incredibly proud of. This sense of achievement stems from being pushed so far out of comfort zone that I was tempted to give up and drop the semester. Yet here I am with a body of work that is so different to my earlier work but still holds the same aesthetic and style. Moving forward, I can see my work evolving further by taking what I have learnt through making in isolation and allowing it to remind me that challenges are not to be avoided. Rather they are to be faced head on. Now I have found myself on the other side of a semester I didn’t think I would complete with more knowledge and confidence in how I make than ever before.
As a third year in 2020 I was anticipating graduating this year and hopefully moving onto honors in 2021. However, due to the disruptions in face-to-face learning I have decided to complete my studies next year. I have thoroughly enjoyed what has come out of my experience in isolation yet the mental stress that coincides with the unknowns about COVID-19 have been challenging. I found trying to stay on top of work and being engaged in every class very unattainable. I had a sense of pointlessness in trying to work normally. It was one of those moments in which I felt an incredible amount of resistance towards making from home, as well as being expected to pay for and embrace an education that was miles away from the norm. Yet moving out of this first semester, I have found myself making some of the most successful pieces in my practice. This success is not defined by grades, rather a sense of shift within my approach to making and comfort in finding a way to really define what my work revolves around. With this in mind I want to give myself the time and space to push this sense of creative flow without the pressures of making in line with due dates and anxieties in facing the ever changing situation of COVID-19, especially being based in Melbourne. While there is a part of me that is disappointed that I wont be finishing this year, I also feel grateful to have the opportunity to push my studies a bit further. I do not believe that this will hinder my work opportunities in the future as I have a few more years of studies to complete, and I hope that in the meantime the Creative Art community can hopefully start to recover from the effects of the global pandemic.
Overall, I am proud to say that while this has been one of the most bizarre, anxiety inducing and upsetting years I have lived through it has also been one of discovery within my creative practice that I don’t believe I would have found if I had not gone through this experience. In other words, if it wasn’t for the coronavirus my work may not have grown if we were still enjoying normal life.
Isobel Carver is a fine arts student in Third year at RMIT. I major in Ceramics with a practice centered on exploring materiality and process within my work. I find clay to be an incredibly diverse material in how it functions and the ways it can be manipulated. I entered into this degree with the desire to pursue a practice that consists of functional wheel thrown vessels. Through my experience of COVID-19 I have witnessed a shift in my making that has moved towards conceptual sculptural forms. I now feel comfortable stepping outside the parameters of making cups and bowls to further extend the way I make and approach clay.